Sound Transit University of Washington Station
At one of the busiest intersections of transportation modalities in Seattle, the Sound Transit University of Washington Station creates a new unified urban space that untangles a morass of fragmented systems. As the city aims to cut greenhouse emissions by 62% by 2030 and works toward a more ambitious carbon neutrality goal, the station makes environmentally friendly travel easy and accessible for all users.
The station is embedded in a complex of uses comprising the University of Washington's Husky Stadium and Alaska Airlines Arena, the university’s historic Rainier Vista campus entrance, and a medical center. It is surrounded by a bicycle and pedestrian trail, 15 bus lines, and a nearby freeway that generates significant traffic flow. For years, the station’s intersection was the grand gateway to the university's campus, but its overlapping uses and the city's population growth reduced it to a quagmire. This project brings much-needed modern infrastructure to Frederick Law Olmsted's century-old master plan while remedying the intersection's woes.
The team created a sense of movement throughout the station and a deep connection with the neighborhood's urban fabric. A two-level glass and steel entrance frames views of the surrounding neighborhood, the Cascade Mountains, and Lake Washington. The core experience occurs when the station's escalators and glass elevators enter into its 55-foot high underground chamber, among the largest such volumes in Seattle. The team partnered with artist Leo Saul Berk, whose work, Subterraneum, engages with the architecture and references the geological strata surrounding the station.
The core experience occurs when the station's escalators and glass elevators enter into its 55-foot high underground chamber, among the largest such volumes in Seattle.
Above, the station's bicycle and pedestrian bridge connects to both levels of the entrance. As the bridge curves to span the adjacent boulevard, it connects directly to Rainier Vista. The bridge is a crucial piece of the city's plan to expand its bicycle commuter network, and it connects, through a bike lane on the State Route 520 floating bridge, to Seattle's 27-mile-long Burke-Gilman trail.
By working closely with Sound Transit and several other agencies, the team delivered much more than a commuter-focused light rail station. Functioning as a highly flexible civic gathering space, the station's plaza and parking area regularly serve as a space for fans to line up for entry to the university's highly attended football games. Following games and other large events, passengers can be staged in the plaza to avoid overloading incoming trains. The station's transparent headhouse provides considerable natural light, even in its underground spaces, further bolstering all users' experiences.
After it opened, the station surpassed Sound Transit's ridership expectations by nearly 30%. Its impact on the city is unparalleled, and its meshing of high-quality design and urban integration illustrates the opportunities often overlooked in this typology.